Knead And Listen [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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I am now among the legion of people that turned to baking bread during the pandemic-stay-at-home era. This loaf is gluten free, made with rice flour, since Kerri is allergic to gluten.

In truth, I’ve wanted to bake bread since I knew Brad the baker in California. He was a genuine hippie, a believer in peace and simple living. “Bread is a living thing,” he once said as I watched in fascination his kneading of the dough. You can tell a true master craftsman at work by watching their hands. They feel something in the dough or the wood that the rest of us do not.

My loaf was not made by a master. Not even by an apprentice.

Bill sent a photo of his first loaf and I asked for the recipe. It came as screen shots and I scribbled them into a recipe on notebook paper. Easy steps to follow but I knew from watching Brad that I would not find in my recipe any easy guidance on how to feel the life in the dough. That would come with time. Maybe. If I was lucky and diligent and practiced listening through my hands.

I’m not surprised people are turning to bread during this time of pandemic uncertainty. It is essential. The making of bread, the cultivation of wheat, made civilization, as we know it, possible. It is, therefore, a central symbol in many belief systems. Separate the chaff from the wheat. A time for harvest. This is my body. Eat.

Brad told me that the dough kneads you as much as you knead the dough. It’s a simple relationship between living things and requires complete focus. Mutual respect. Attention must be proffered.

Perhaps that is why we turn to bread in times like these. Simple relationships of attention and mutual respect are increasingly rare. Bread reminds us of what is possible, what is healthy. It reminds us of the patience that is required if we are to find our way to harvest. It reminds us of the necessity of knowing what is chaff and what is wheat, or remembering that there is a direct relationship between what is planted and what is grown.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BREAD

 

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Learn It Again and Again [on DR Thursday]

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“I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.” ~ Pablo Picasso

This trail of images, all on the same canvas, is an idea trying hard not to become something else. It is a series of fitful starts and dissatisfied restarts.  It is not uncommon, when I feel that my well is dry, to start a painting and shove it through many phases of discontent. I pull on it and push on it like so much taffy.

I’ve learned (or I am making it up at this very moment) that this exercise of discontent is important. It is a necessary skill to develop – not to get too attached to an idea or invested in how it “should” be. When my well is empty, I generally stumble into this old mistake: I try to force a result. I try to make it happen. I somehow forget that the best work is a relationship, a process that has very little to do with muscle and everything to do with heart. And so, I roll through a series of forced images.

And then, one day, I throw up my hands and all thoughts of my precious idea go out the window. I let go. And that is the exact moment that the idea becomes something else and the painting can finally begin.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE STORY OF A MISS

 

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Step Toward The Center [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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We had this quote in the melange line up long before there was a pandemic. Now, it is impossible to look at this phrase without pressing it through the lens of COVID19. What might we have written in a less chaotic context?

One of the best lessons I was taught, is that we cannot control our circumstance but we can control who we are within our circumstance. The hurricane will come. The pandemic. It is possible in the midst of the storm to panic. To hoard. To blame. To resent. It is also possible to stand in a center, to share, to support, to reach. You are not your circumstance.

Sitting in his study that smelled of instant coffee, book dust and cigarettes, Quinn and I used to talk endlessly about chaos theory. Within the seeming chaos of a dynamic complex system there exists pattern, repetition, self-organization. Pattern, repetition, organization – these are words of order, not of disorder. Chaos. Order. We only know order relative to chaos. We only know chaos relative to order.

Within the Hermetic laws (and Newtonian physics, equal and opposite forces) there is the law of polarity. Everything contains its opposite. Or, said another way, what might appear to be opposite, is, in fact, two ends (poles) of the same thing. Order. Chaos. We cannot know light without the contrast of darkness. We live on a continuum. What we experience is simply a matter of degree on the continuum. There is always a bit of chaos in my otherwise orderly day. In times of chaos, we become very clear about what matters and what does not.

Out of chaos we self-organize. In the throes of social distance we are finding ways to reach and connect. We are prioritizing connection. I’ve spoken with or texted more people in the last seven days than I have in the last seven months.

We see it every year. The hurricane blows away a city and the greater community always shows up to dig in and help out. And rebuild. In chaos we organize to make sure everyone makes it to the other side of the storm. Initially, the coming chaos reveals the ugliest aspects of our nature. We hoard. We price gouge. We run to the far end of the continuum and hang onto the poles, mine/yours, us/them. But, sit in it long enough, and chaos always reveals the deeper truths. Interconnectedness is another way of understanding a continuum. We turn our focus on relationship. The space between. Your need is my need. We are not separate.

Order arises when we step toward the shared center and away from the chaotic extremes. We are not our circumstance so the question remains: who are we within our circumstance?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CHAOS & BOUNDARIES

 

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*this photo of BabyCat is not doctored. I have no explanation for the ordered shape that our very large cat takes in the moments prior to creating chaos.

 

 

 

Rest Full [on KS Friday]

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“The primeval beauty of silence becomes audible in the elemental music of the earth and in our music of instrument and voice. At the core of the world and at the core of the soul is silence that ripples with the music of beauty and the whisperings of the eternal.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

I have said more than once these past few weeks, that the silver lining of two broken wrists is that all the presses have stopped. The endless list of things-to-do fell into dust on the floor and the true priorities jumped into immediate clarity. The superficial things gave way to the essential.

Little things, like showering or getting dressed in the morning, are no longer mindless  rote activities. The are now intentional. Attention is paid to every movement, every moment.  They are care-full. I am learning once again that there are riches all around me when I am not racing to get to the next thing but, instead, occupying the moment that I am living. The other night at rehearsal I nearly burst into tears so beautiful were the people and the laughter surrounding us. A month ago, pre-wristgate, I might have missed it.

Caring for an other.  Caring for one and another. Other caring.

We rest. We do not push through. So many in our amazing community have asked me, as I care for Kerri, am I also taking care of myself? I love this question. It is generous. The answer is ‘yes’ and the question it raises is ‘why isn’t this level of self-generosity the norm?’ Are you caring for yourself? In the midst of all that life flings your way, first and foremost, as you care for others, are you also attending to yourself?

I’m learning that the two things are inseparable: caring for another is also caring for yourself. Or, flip it over: it is impossible to fully care for yourself without caring for others. We know ourselves through relationship. We can only thrive when loved and while loving. People in isolation go mad. Banishment from the group was once considered a punishment worse than death.

As silence is to sound. Caring as making beautiful life-music. We take our quarter rest.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about QUARTER REST

 

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Look Beneath [on DR Thursday]

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What’s beneath? It’s a question all artists learn to ask. It’s the same question good coaches ask of their clients. Seeing is not a superficial affair.

What’s beneath? What alchemy of color was brewed to make this image or that painting? What alchemy of experience was brewed to make this belief or that perception?

Sometimes “what’s beneath” supports and enlivens the surface layers. It’s magnetic and makes you stare – even if you don’t know why. Sometimes it dulls the painting, pulling the life from it. The same holds true for how a life is storied. Sense-making is as dynamic as color.

Color is a miracle. It is never passive. It is only understood by what it is relative to. That is, color, like a relationship, is fluid, moving, spirited.

What’s beneath all those layers and layers of color?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about UNDER PAINTING

 

 

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under painting, like captain underpants, is under copyright. ©️ 2020 robinson david

Breathe The Same Air [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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For years I had a debate with my business partner. She was a first adopter, always jumping into the latest technology. Her position in the debate: real relationships were possible through technology. My position: you need to be in the same room with someone if you want a real relationship. Technology can provide connective tissue but can never approach the visceral, tangible, sensual realities necessary in a relationship.

Over time I’ve flip-flopped my position and then flipped back again. Connectivity is not relationship. I am connected with people all over the world – and I deeply appreciate the network connection – but I am only in relationship with the people I spend time with. It is simple. Relationship takes time. Relationship needs time. It is not an achievement; it is an ongoing investment in the heart of another.

John O’Donohue writes about the “digital instant,” the expectation of arrival compressed into a nanosecond. The absence of journey. If the website doesn’t come up in a second or two, we leave in frustration. We click our angry departure for another instant arrival. If I don’t answer an email within a compressed amount of time, the originator of the email wonders why I’m ignoring them. Connectivity comes with expectations that often prohibit relationship. Or, rather, connectivity is the low-bar expectation of what now qualifies for real relationship.

Yesterday 20 and I continued a conversation that we started four years ago. We will pick it up again because our conversation has no end. It is a lifetime conversation. There is no expectation of arrival, of conclusion. The focus is entirely on the journey, the friendship, the continuance. The laughter, the deep sharing of fear and frustration, the vulnerability, the sharing-of-time-to-listen-and-give-presence. What we share is not a network connection (that phrase feels scrubbed, antiseptic, even in the writing of it). It is something with breadth and depth and texture that can only come when two people breathe the same air, sit in the same room, read body language, and feel what is beneath the words.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about NETWORK CONNECTIONS

 

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Be An Antonym [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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It is becoming increasingly apparent that I am not fashionably current. In truth, I have never been near or even remotely close to being in-the-know. I am not a first adopter. The evidence is right beneath my typing fingers; were my computer a child it would be attending middle-school.

I have hermit tendencies. I am at my core a wanderer. I am more comfortable alone in my studio than at a gallery opening (or any other human gathering space, for that matter. Parties strike fear in my heart). My idea of fun is to take a walk in the woods.

It occurred to me – later in life than it ought to have occurred to me – that I am a margin sitter. A looker-in rather than a center-dweller. All of these characteristics that I have embraced as personal deficits, judgments that I have held against myself and used like a sword to cut myself in two, are, in fact, my greatest gifts. Beowulf’s bees. From the margins I can- and do – see. I am supposed to be an antonym.

On the flight to meet this woman named Kerri, a woman I’d been writing to for months, I was worried that she would see me and dismiss me outright. I am – to put it mildly – not the norm. I thought she might reject me for my absence of hip. Emerging from the concourse, to my great surprise and amusement, standing before me, was a woman dressed just like me. A black sweater. Blue jeans. Boots. Another margin sitter. A fellow antonym. We cackled at the realization.

Later that first night, we crawled through a window, sat on on the roof in plastic chairs, and drank wine, looking at the world from our place on the margin, comparing notes on our oddness. Burgers and champagne to this day, partners in seeing from the edges, occupying the place we were always meant to inhabit: the polar antonym of hip.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the ANTONYM OF HIP

 

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Contrast [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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It is the ultimate cliche’: we only know light because of dark. 20 calls this the contrast principle. Images juxtaposed illuminate. It’s how stories are told in film. Once. Upon. A. Time. It is how images pop off the canvas, blue next to orange, green meets purple. Contrast makes the eye move. Contrast makes shapes emerge. Movement has no meaning without stillness.

It’s relative. Related. Relationship. Without relativity, without contrast, nothing makes sense. Or, more to the point, nothing is sensed. Difference, in fact, is the secret sauce necessary for knowing anything. Category. Class. Classification. Group. What is like what? What is related? What is unrelated? Cubicle. Caste. Lines on a map.

Contrast can be wielded like a sword. They are not us. Division.

Or, contrast can be used to unify. A crossroads of diverse perspectives, innovation.

Nature is dynamic at its edges. Water meets beach. Earth meets water. Air breathes fire. Hot meets cold. Convection current. Contrast. Changing energies. Creative movement.

Kerri stopped during our walk. “Look!” she exclaimed. Her eye was drawn to the lone daisy in the midst of the sea of black-eyed susans. “Beautiful,” she whispered as she approached with her camera. “Look at the contrast.”

So similar. So different. Yellow meets white. Black meets yellow.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CONTRAST

 

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daisy in the black-eyed susans ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

Plan For Surprise [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft a-gley ~Robert Burns, To A Mouse

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. It is something we keep in mind as we wade into the planning phase of our next project [well, learning first. Planning, second].

Actually, in truth, the best laid plans always go awry. Life, circumstance, is a constantly moving and changing force that generally alters all well-conceived plans. Whether we acknowledge it or not. We plan but [you might want to sit down for this next bit of revelation]: we do not control.

The plan, at best, is an abstraction that assumes a perfect circumstance and completely ignores relationship dynamics. People are fickle. Everyone has a plan and many of the plans do not line up with my plan! There is weather. There are partycrashers.  Pick pockets. Tripping stones. The budget. The children get sick. The internet portals are tapped out. The bridge fails. There is a better idea.

If everything went according to plan there would be no happy accidents. No teachable moments. Most discoveries come precisely because the plan fails. It is a rule of change that if you know where you are going, you will recreate what you already have. The plan can only pretend to bring about change. Change comes when you veer off course. Change comes from time spent in the unknown lands. Oddly, so does learning.

The only plan that makes sense? Plan for surprise. You’ll never be disappointed or frustrated because everything will go according to the plan.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on THE PLAN

 

 

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Carry The Message [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Rick Stone, founder of the StoryWork Institute, began his workshops with this fill-in-the-blank prompt: I come from a people who___________, and from them I learned____________. Try it. You will be surprised by the characteristics that jump up, the things you don’t really think about that you hold dear or that you resist. The connectivity that, for better or worse, defines you. The seedling of the answer to “Who am I?”

Jean HoustonJean Houston called it the burning point: you are the living flame, the burning point, of an ancestral line. You carry those who came before you. You will live through those in your line who come after you. It is the greater story, “Where do I come from?” It is the greater story, “Where am I going?”

One day, I caught myself standing with my elbow bent, just as my father stands when he is thinking. It is the posture his mother took when she was deep in thought. I imagine it was how her father or grandmother stood. An entire line of elbow tension reaching back into dark history. My elbows connect me. Kerri said, “This DNA thing is real!”

With all the time, money, ego, and energy we spend in life trying to distinguish ourselves as individuals, as distinct, as separate, it is actually the opposite, it is our connective tissue that gives us definition. It is in and through our relationships – our stories – that we generate meaning. It is through our roots – our stories – that we understand who we are.

I come from a people who___________, and from them I learned_________. We are messengers, all.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MESSENGERS

 

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